What community stories can tell us about changing drainage management approaches in the River Adur catchment

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Introduction The integrity of renewable freshwater resources is critical for the sustainable development of economies and societies. However, to add to existing complexity, water environments will face a further range of acute challenges over the next twenty five years resulting from rising population hubs, factors associated with climate change, riverine water quality issues and changing land management practices. One of the recent debates in land management policy is the shift in emphasis regarding responsibility for rural drainage. Although it has always been the responsibility of land owners to adequately manage the impacts of water on their land there has existed for many years a sympathetic relationship between land owners and the Environment Agency (EA). Over time this has evolved into an expectation, certainly within the River Adur catchment, that the EA can and should continue with clearance of smaller watercourses. The EA have now restated that these additional works are no longer viable for them due to a wide range of resource and policy factors. With rising anxiety about flooding events this restatement of legal responsibility combines to potentially change the way in which the EA and landowners interface with each other. Main aim of the project The data discussed in this paper are drawn from a wider piece of research recently undertaken by the University of Brighton around community understandings and perceptions of changing water conditions orientated around the concept of resilience. As part of that project, in which respondents from the mid catchment communities of Steyning, Bramber and Upper Beeding were asked to discuss their interests and concerns around local water resources management issues, narratives around land drainage and its impact on watercourses emerged across a range of interest groups. Study and methods used The study, undertaken between September 2015 and February 2016, involved semi-structured qualitative individual and group interviews with respondents living and working alongside the River Adur catchment. Main outcomes and their implications. The stories provided by the community tell historically of a joint endeavour between land owners and the EA to keep watercourses flowing. Over time this has lead to an expectation that it is the EA’s responsibility to help transition water from smaller watercourses to the river. Consequently the restatement of legal responsibilities by the EA is perceived as a retraction of support. This is framed within a narrative of reducing government assistance against a rising anxiety concerning flooding, heavier rainfall events and the implicit costs of individualising drainage management.One key implication is that these community stories tells us that the push to create ‘resilient communities’ is viewed as a way of obscuring the reality that the government is no longer willing to financially support the local impacts of climate change and unsustainable land management practices, particularly around run off from housing developments.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016
EventSouth Downs Research Conference 2016 - South Downs Research Centre Midhurst, West Sussex,UK.,6 July 2016.
Duration: 1 Aug 2016 → …


ConferenceSouth Downs Research Conference 2016
Period1/08/16 → …


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